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How is your money doing today?

How is your money doing today?
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First Published: Tue, Jun 14 2011. 09 30 PM IST

Money watch: Several online tools are available to keep track of all your expenditure.
Money watch: Several online tools are available to keep track of all your expenditure.
Updated: Tue, Jun 14 2011. 09 30 PM IST
It’s difficult enough to earn. But as you would have realized, it’s even more difficult to keep track of what you do with your earnings. Where does all that money go? Is there an opportunity to create savings? Is there a way to know exactly what you are worth today, right now, at this very instant?
This sounds like a tall task. But with a little bit of technology, it’s possible.
First, the task at hand. You need to track what you earn, where you spend it, how you invest it, and the worth of that investment. This means knowing what is saved in bank accounts, fixed deposits, PPF and EPF, home loan and education loan liabilities, cash in hand, etc., and the interest on each; it means keeping track of your insurance policies and what they are worth; looking at your investment in property, gold, equity, mutual funds and looking up the stock markets for their latest values. It also perhaps means having a degree in accountancy—which you may not necessarily have.
Money watch: Several online tools are available to keep track of all your expenditure.
Then—with or without a degree in accountancy and financial planning—you would have to create an Excel sheet and get all the numbers right, possibly every month or every week (and ruin Sundays double-checking the figures). Now, honestly, can you put your hand on your heart and say, “I know I have all the details I need to understand my net worth as of now.”
It gets worse. If you want to identify savings opportunities, it means keeping track of daily expenditure and cash flows, credit card spending, medical bills, restaurant bills, phone bills, power bills, school fees…this list of bills can go on forever, right?
There are several online tools to keep track of finances. One such online money management site is ManageMe7. The site is clean, uncluttered, easy to use and, more importantly, does not solicit your business.
But it doesn’t provide a reliable solution that can be used in real time. This is because everything at ManageMe7 requires manual entries— and that, as we all know, is fraught with problems. There are several such sites available—along with a variety of calculators to assist you. If anything, these sites emphasize the size and nature of the problem that needs solving.
“We realized that the amount of manual work required along with frequent updates of financial data made it impossible to use these services with any degree of accuracy,” says V.R. Govindarajan, co-founder and director, Perfios, a one-stop personal finance service . At the moment it’s the only service in India that provides live, real-time understanding of your personal finances.
Also see | Money Minders (PDF)
Govindarajan and his team set out to simplify the management of data to provide a 360-degree view of your personal finances. To begin with, Perfios ensures that a considerable amount of the data updates are automated. For example, the service fetches the deposit details of your bank accounts, fixed deposits, or your loan details and credit card expenses (you can also upload your financial statements in practically any format) in real time. Perfios then reads the data and makes sense of it. If your credit card statement has the word “My Yatra” it will automatically categorize it as a travel expense (elegant use of technology). Perfios captures data that you—or the financial institutions authorized by you—provide to create reports and views of your financial state.
To ensure that privacy is maintained, Perfios does not store any user data (except the email ID). Instead, it uses your computer to store the data and uses it when required for analytics and the creation of all those super fancy reports, graphs and pie charts (not to speak of .xls files). Even the authentication details of the user are not stored on the Perfios servers. Instead, one part of the authentication code is encrypted and kept on your computer and the decryption key is on the Perfios server. “It takes a handshake between the Perfios server and your computer to gain access to the service,” says Govindarajan. There is no risk of the Perfios server doing anything without the user’s knowledge. Perfios has a patent pending for its security process. That is the level of attention it’s paying to security. The data Perfios is able to manage is so detailed that it can automatically create I-T returns for you—a feature the service will add shortly.
An equally sophisticated service is available from Intuit. The Intuit Money Manager is simple to understand and efficiently creates all kinds of views of your financial status. It lets you categorize spending, log cash transactions, view your spending patterns, set and track budgets, plan taxes and gloat over your portfolio.
And that should really be the purpose of tracking your financial status—so that you can reach a point where you rejoice over the pile you have built. And that can happen only when you have a system that tracks your financial health with great accuracy.
“For a personal finance site to be truly useful, it needs to provide real-time insight into your wealth,” says Srikanth Bhagavat, managing director and principal advisor, Hexagon Capital Advisors, who has more than a decade of experience in wealth management. He should know. His company has won the CNBC Best Independent Financial Advisor Award. Bhagavat says: “Perfios has the right partnerships across Indian financial institutions to give users reliable, real-time insight. A personal finance service should be extremely accurate in its capabilities to track your financial worth. This means completely avoiding manual inputs and developing a huge amount of automation to acquire real-time information from banks, markets, insurance companies, credit card accounts and so on.”
Illustration by Raajan/Mint
Arun Katiyar is a content and communication consultant with a focus on technology companies. He is a published author with HarperCollins and has extensive media experience spanning music, print, radio, the Internet and mobile phones.
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Jun 14 2011. 09 30 PM IST